The situation in the Holy Land has escalated again following to the assault on a flotilla headed towards the Gaza Strip on May 31.
However, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and President of Caritas Jerusalem, hopes that the young generation of Palestinians and Israelis will one day know peace.
Question: The international community has severely condemned the deadly raid on a humanitarian flotilla headed towards Gaza. What was your reaction to this event?
Patriarch Twal : We witnessed the events from a double position. We are part of the international community but also part of the people who are kept prisoners here. We condemn any act of violence. All people should be able to live together in liberty and happiness, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Christians. All actions impeding dialogue and negotiation does not serve peace, no matter who is responsible.
Question: US President Barack Obama is currently trying to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks through indirect negotiations. Do you think these initiatives have a chance to succeed?
Patriarch Twal : We pray for successful peace negotiations so that this land of Calvary will finally become a land of peace. We need to continue hoping. We are not allowed to give up hope even though the current situation is not in favour of peace talks.
In order to achieve progress, a lot of common sense is needed. We need to have a great vision and a great heart. Violence is never a solution. We hope that we can help bring people together with our Caritas initiatives in the Occupied Territories.
Caritas has been working in the Palestinian territories since the Six Day War in 1967. Yes, violence continues, but so does our charity work. Our schools and our hospitals are still open. Personally, I strongly believe in education. In our schools, children play together, eat together and pray together, that is the best dialogue possible, the best way to open yourself.
Question : What impact does international aid have in the Palestinian territories ?
Patriarch Twal : In the Gaza strip, problems are wide-spread. Many people are scarred by war and their houses have been destroyed. Caritas works in the fields of social services, health care and education. This aid is very important. A global solidarity exists towards Jerusalem and our Caritas beneficiaries can feel that.
We are receiving a lot of aid and we need it, but we have not received yet what we need the most. It’s peace. The aid we receive is like an aspirin. It gives us relief but it is not a long term solution.
The occupation keeps us from having a normal life. We cannot move freely to go to work, to the hospital or to church like everybody else. That is no life.
The Gaza siege needs to be lifted. No people should have to undergo this. We just want to be like any other people, we are not trying to get any privileges. The conflict has been going on for decades. People are tired.
The new generation, the young Palestinians and Israelis, were born in a climate of violence and were raised under these circumstances. Violence is all they know. How can they even consider peace ? I believe that religious and political leaders have a great responsibility here. They all need to ask themselves what they can do so that this new generation will know peace.
Question : How is Caritas as a Catholic organisation perceived in the Palestinian territories ?
Patriarch Twal : We are a purely Catholic organisation and are saying this with pride. We shouldn’t be afraid of saying that. Our organization is 100% Catholic, but it is open to everybody. And our beneficiaries know that. They are grateful for the much needed services we offer in the fields of education, health and social life. Our charity knows no borders.